“I just say: ‘Yes. I’m black and it does matter. If you have a problem with that, then I am sorry for you.’ ”
As time winds down on the municipal election in Rio Rancho, controversy rises in the race for mayor.
Seven campaign signs for one of the candidates, Barbara Jordan, have disappeared or been defaced.
Jordan said she was stunned when friends and supporters told her that campaign signs were missing. One was in a neighbor’s yard.
It had a black “X” spray painted across the front.
Jordan, a 20-year Air Force veteran who has seen combat, is the first African-American mayoral candidate in Rio Rancho history. And she believes the color of her skin contributed to the destruction of her signs.
“It stung,” she said. “When I first saw it, it stung. It’s 2022, so I would think we’re better than that, but apparently not. It leads me to say this is why I do what I do. And this is why we need change in Rio Rancho.”
She has no idea who took her signs or painted the “X” on one of them, and she has no plans to report the losses or vandalism to the police.
“I’m hesitant to do it because we’re six days out and I don’t want that to take away from the momentum that we have built up,” she said. “I want to focus on getting people to the polls. Instead of going to the police, we can use our voice.”
Other candidates contacted by the Observer did not return emails or phone calls for comment or to find out if they lost signs or suffered vandalism.
Alexandria Piland, chair of the Democratic Party of Sandoval County, said it is “disappointing that any candidate’s political signs would be defaced, especially those of a disabled veteran and mother.”
“The majority of Rio Rancho residents are much better than this, and the Democratic Party of Sandoval County encourages everyone to vote,” she said.
Cate Stetson, president of the Rio Rancho NAACP, had a more emotional take.
The destruction of the signs, Stetson said, “is a criminal violation of the law and offensive to the basic Constitutional principle of free speech.”
The incident is “yet another shameful indication of the hatred, racism and unacceptable ignorance that remains, even in New Mexico, a minority-majority state. While I am very proud in so many ways of the way our state votes and legislates as a whole, individuals and pockets of racists continue to raise their ugly heads and remind us that the fight continues.”
During election seasons, stolen or damaged political signs is nothing new, said Lt. Richard Koschade with the Rio Rancho Police Department
“Unfortunately, during local and federal elections, it is typical for the police department to take some reports of political signs being either damaged or stolen,” he said.
But it’s a criminal offense.
Although the police department has not received any reports in the last 30 days of incidents, he pointed out that charges can include larceny, criminal damage and trespassing – which are petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor crimes.
The petty misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to $500 or 90 days in jail. If the offense is a full misdemeanor, it carries a penalty of up to a $1,000 fine or one year in jail.
For Jordan, win or lose, it’s been a special experience.
“It’s been an incredible journey doing this and being a black woman,” she said. “I’m well aware that I’m a black woman. It just keeps being brought up with people trying to put me in a corner or say that I have some kind of radical ideology. I just say: ‘Yes. I’m black and it does matter. If you have a problem with that, then I am sorry for you.”